The Navigation Satellite Timing And Ranging Global Positioning System (NAVSTAR GPS) project, widely known as GPS, was initially conceived during the cold war to guide Inter-Continental Ballistic Missiles (ICBM) to their target. While it is still under the control of the US Military, over the years it has been put to use for the public good, allowing consumers and commercial enterprises free use of the signals generated by the current constellation of 29 satellites. This constellation allows a receiver to pin point its longitude, latitude, velocity and altitude. With the advent of more powerful and smaller computing platforms, the ability to coordinate a longitude and latitude to a map and provide directions to a desired location is now becoming common place with stand alone hand held navigation computers, PDAs and cellular phones leading the way. For fear of misuse, the original designers implemented a degraded public signal which does not provide as accurate a location as the military's encrypted signal. However over the years engineers have designed ways to provide as accurate a location as the military's encrypted signal. Today consumers are able to purchase receivers which provide a location that is accurate to less than 3 meters. Engineers have also added wireless Bluetooth technology to receivers enabling them to work with almost any Bluetooth device.
One of the leaders in this area is Transystem, Inc., they have recently released a Bluetooth GPS receiver, the i-Blue 737 which is marketed as a high performance and accurate Bluetooth GPS receiver. Let's take a look at how it performs with Windows Mobile!
The key attributes of the i-Blue 737 are:
32-Channel all-in-view satellite tracking
Ultra high sensitivity MTK chipset (-158dBm)
Smart power saving function for up to 25 hours of operation on one charge
Smart auto sleep & wake function for up to 360 hours in standby mode
Fast position acquisition, 39 seconds from a cold start, 36 seconds from a warm start, and 1 second from a hot start.
Position accuracy within 3 meters without augmentation signal
Position accuracy within 2.5 meters with WAAS, EGNOS, or MSAS augmentation signal
Support for the NMEA-0183 V3.0 GPS communication standard V3.0 (4800-115200 baud)
Support for the Bluetooth version 1.1, 1.2 and 2.0 Serial Protocol Profile (SPP)
Setup of the unit is performed via the Bluetooth pairing process.
The i-Blue 737 package includes the receiver, a 120/240 Volt AC charger, a 12 Volt DC car charger, a Li-ion replaceable battery, and a manual. The replaceable battery is the same used in many Nokia phones.
The side view of the receiver with the on/off switch.
The other side of the receiver provides a mini USB charger connection is displayed with the included AC charger's mini USB tip. The mini USB connector provide a standardized means of charging the i-Blue 737 with multi device chargers like the Gomadic double charger we reviewed here.
The i-Blue 737 in charging mode. The green LED will blink once the unit is fully charged. The LED will glow RED if the battery charge is low.
The manual does not contain instructions to pair the i-Blue 737 with the Microsoft Bluetooth stack found in Windows Mobile 5.0. Once the Bluetooth utility is opened under Start/Settings/Connections/Bluetooth and the i-Blue 737 is turned on, initiate the New Partnership function. The iBT-GPS device is displayed on the right once it is found.
The passkey of the i-Blue 737 is "0000". The i-Blue 737 supports the Bluetooth Serial Port Profile (SPP).
An Outgoing port must be created under the Com Ports tab. Select the iBT-GPS device.
Select the COM port. This COM port will be used by GPS applications.
Once configured the i-Blue 737 is very easy to use. Although there is no included software, a simple Windows Mobile validation utility can be downloaded from the Transystem web site here.
The utility automatically scans the com ports to connect to the i-Blue 737. It displays which satellites are providing an acceptable signal, along with location information.
The i-Blue 737's sensitivity is very impressive. I was able to determine the indoor location of the coffee table in my living room. The i-Blue has two sets of LEDs. The blue LED closest to the edge provides Bluetooth status (fast blink for an active connection). The orange LED in the center provides positive satellite acquisition status by blinking.
The problem with navigation applications is the periodic need to update maps. Now a new breed of mobile device search, mapping and navigation applications are emerging. These applications along with mobile internet access and GPS receivers like the i-Blue 737 provide real time location based search services, routing and navigation. Even Nokia has released a beta version of their Smart2Go application for Windows Mobile. The basic application is free, however advanced location based services and navigation are fee based.
Another one of these applications is the recently released Microsoft Live Search for Windows Mobile. Although it does not provide voice based navigation, it performs very well, provides satellite views and is free. Another contender is Google Mobile Maps, however, I have been unimpressed with the GPS receiver integration.
The i-Blue 737's very impressive location acquisition speed is partially due to the fact that it uses a feature found in integrated automotive GPS units which store current satellite status, most recent location, date, and time. Power conservation is also another hallmark of the i-Blue 737; with its standby mode which last up to 360 hours. Once the connected device reestablishes the connection, the i-Blue 737 comes out of standby mode automatically.
I could not find any support contact information in the manual or on the Transystem, Inc. web site. The manual can be downloaded from here, however it only provides instructions for pairing the unit with Windows Mobile 2003. An FAQ can be found here.
Most Bluetooth enabled devices which supports the Serial Port Profile (SPP). The unit dimensions are 46.5mm x 72.2mm x 20mm, it weighs 64.7 grams.
BUGS AND WISHES
I found the unit easy to setup and have had no issues with it. My only wishes would be the inclusion of a carrying case and an even smaller design.
The retail price of the i-Blue 737 is $129.99. It can be purchased at Amazon.com for $69.95.
- Very sensitive receiver (can be used near window or in coat pocket)
- Fast location acquisition time
- Great battery life
- No carrying case
- No apparent customer support contact information
- Manual only details Windows Mobile 2003 pairing sequence
With the i-Blue 737's phenomenal sensitivity and accurate location calculation, you can place it in your pocket and use one of the new location based search application to easily roam and visit the streets of unfamiliar cities. This is the best Bluetooth GPS receiver I have ever used. The i-Blue 737 location acquisition speed and not having to place it in a direct line of sight of the GPS satellites, make it truly impressive. The orange LED GPS acquisition indicator is very helpful in determining whether the application or the PDA need to be reset. What else is there to say, this is an impressive device in a small package that can be purchased at a reasonable price. Along with the Windows Live Search application, the i-Blue 737 will become one my indispensable peripherals.